Broadband Communities

OCT 2017

BROADBAND COMMUNITIES is the leading source of information on digital and broadband technologies for buildings and communities. Our editorial aims to accelerate the deployment of Fiber-To-The-Home and Fiber-To-The-Premises.

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54 | BROADBAND COMMUNITIES | | OCTOBER 2017 COMMUNITY BROADBAND Feasibility Studies for Municipal Broadband What communities should do during the planning phase of a broadband project – and what they can save for later By Lori Sherwood / Vantage Point Solutions W hen it comes to developing and expanding municipal broadband networks, there is no one-size-fits-all model. Proper planning is crucial to the success of any network deployment. However, not all broadband planning is equal; some planning processes may even be counterproductive. Many communities borrow planning outlines from requests for proposals (RFPs) that other communities have issued and that address needs specific to the original community. is results in their spending time and resources on tasks that do not match their values and priorities. Worse, this one-size-fits-all approach to planning can lead a feasibility process into a cycle of never-ending discussions, research requests and multiple partnership solicitations. Not every plan will (or should!) result in a full municipal network deployment, but a poor feasibility study will inevitably halt even a good, viable potential project in its tracks. Understanding feasibility study best practices will help a municipality of any size complete a proper feasibility study. As your community considers undertaking a feasibility study, the fundamental question to keep in mind is this: What problem or problems are you are trying to solve? Are you trying to bring broadband to parts of your community that are unserved or underserved? Do you have a digital equity and utilization problem? Are consumers in your community dissatisfied with their current internet provider? Are you trying to solve all these problems? Before committing public funds or seeking private investment to support a municipal network, municipal leaders must understand the problem or problems a network might solve. ELEMENTS OF A FEASIBILITY STUDY A feasibility process should focus on the following seven elements. Note that not all these activities may be necessary for every planning study – this process can be streamlined depending on the needs of the community, existing community assets and any prior planning work that has been completed. 1. Reaching Out to Stakeholders Identifying all the key stakeholders in a community and ensuring that they are included in the process from the very beginning is critically important. Outreach can be accomplished through individual or group meetings and should include representatives from K–12 schools, universities, the library system, public safety agencies, the health care and business communities, active community groups, elected officials and others. is outreach is critical to uncover potential assets and financial resources and to gauge the current and future needs in the community. 2. Understanding the Existing Infrastructure A community may or may not have assets that could be used to deploy a broadband

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